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Mayor Sarno, Congressman Neal and Officials Break Ground on Van Horn Dam Project

Friday, October 28, 2016

Mayor Domenic J. Sarno, Congressman Richard E. Neal, Patrick J. Sullivan, Executive Director of Parks, Building and Recreation Management, Peter Garvey, Director of Capital Asset Management, and the Springfield Park Commission held a groundbreaking ceremony today for the Van Horn Dam project.

The core of this project is flood protection and establishing inter-related measures that will protect Springfield from the impacts of catastrophic flood, which science indicates is the City’s greatest risk as a result of climate change. The City has already seen rainstorms of increased volume and duration.  Springfield’s low elevation on the bank of the Connecticut River, where it is joined by three other rivers, makes the possibility of flood very high. This project will protect the residents of the North End, and also Baystate Hospital, the region’s only Level I Trauma Center, which is at extreme risk in the event of breach of the Lower Van Horn dam. The dam is currently designated by the state of Massachusetts as a high hazard in poor condition, and protection of Baystate Hospital is a critical regional need.

Funding for the renovations is made possible by a grant from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, MassMutual Financial Group and the City of Springfield. The funding will allow the City of Springfield to initiate the reconstruction of the Van Horn Dam. The Dam has been closely monitored with bi-annual inspections for over ten years. The commencement of this project is a welcome relief for the City of Springfield, Baystate Medical and the residents of the North End.

MassMutual and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs agreed to commit a combined $2.4 million to the City’s resilience projects which will ensure the Van Horn Dam is resilient in future storm events.

Mayor Sarno stated, “The city is grateful to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and Mass Mutual for investing in this critical project. I also want to express my gratitude to Baystate Medical Center, for investing in over $20 million dollars into their co-gen plant. This will expand the hospital’s ability to deliver patient care during extreme storm events. These projects will safe guard our city well into the next century and are vital to the continued economic growth of our city. Mass Mutual and the Commonwealth have ensured the safety of our residents and protected Baystate Medical from future catastrophic storm events.”

“Reconstructing the Van Horn Dam is a good example of how Mayor Sarno and the City of Springfield are taking a proactive approach to its emergency preparedness. No one in the Pioneer Valley needs to be reminded of how destructive a catastrophic storm can be to a community. So taking the steps to put the necessary safeguards in place to protect our citizens and stakeholders from a natural disaster makes perfect sense. Our region is fortunate to have good corporate citizens like Mass Mutual and Baystate Health Systems who continue to make significant investments in the North End neighborhood. The partnership between the public and private sector on this important project demonstrates that our community is taking hazard prevention seriously,” said Congressman Richard E. Neal.

Brian Santaniello, Park Commission Chairman stated, “This is great news for the residents of the North End and Baystate Medical Center. I want to thank the Mayor and my fellow commissioners for keeping this project in the forefront and ensuring a solution to this critical need. We have witnessed the terrible tragedies recently in the south from Hurricane Mathew and Springfield will now be prepared for future storm events. 

“The Lower Van Horn Reservoir Dam is an earthen dam that provides critical flood protection for the downstream areas. The dam embankments have been covered in large trees, which were once thought to be appropriate ground cover on dams, but are now understood to be a hazard,” commented Patrick Sullivan.  “In light of evolving guidelines, policies and regulations, Springfield will increase protection at the Van Horn Dam through tree removal and establishment of an appropriate dense turf vegetative cover over all of these dams and the immediately adjacent lands. This significant undertaking will be accomplished in the context of other dam safety improvements ensuring we protect the residents downstream of this structure.”

“In the 1950s, the perennial discharge from the Van Horn reservoirs was directed into a large-diameter storm drain, installed through the Baystate Hospital property to serve as the storm drain for the previously-mentioned planned residential subdivision. Although the street infrastructure was never built, the drain has since conveyed the waters that continually flow from the reservoirs to the Connecticut River. This culvert travels 1,400 feet underground through the Baystate property, and then conjoins with a larger diameter storm drain that does not daylight until it reaches the Connecticut River, about a half-mile downstream and to the west. The improvements to this waterway will increase overflow capacity and prevent flooding during 100 year storm events,” concluded Peter Garvey.


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Page last updated:  Monday, September 25, 2017 06:44 pm